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Offshore renewable energy

The renewable energy of the seas consists of many different sources that are abundant, natural and clean, like wind, wave and tidal.

©European Union

The EU, with its 5 sea basins, has massive potential for both offshore wind and ocean energy. Renewable energy from the seas can be harnessed by a great variety of technologies, making it a cornerstone of the clean energy transition.

To reach the European Green Deal energy and climate goals, and at the same time reduce our need for energy imports, the EU is speeding up the green transition and investing massively in renewable energy.

The EU, a global leader on wind

The EU has helped develop wind power thanks to ambitious policies and investments, and European companies have invaluable experience by being “first movers”. The first offshore wind farm was installed in Denmark already in 1991.

Currently, the EU is a global leader in the manufacturing of key wind turbine components, as well as in the foundations and cables industry: almost half of the active companies in the wind sector (onshore and offshore) are headquartered in the EU. To explore offshore sites further out to sea with stronger and more consistent winds, several European developers are working on floating offshore wind turbines. Multiple pilot projects are already up and running, with deployment expected to accelerate towards the end of this decade.

EU strategy on offshore renewable energy

To ensure that offshore renewable energy can help reach the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets for 2030 and 2050, the Commission published a dedicated EU strategy on offshore renewable energy (COM(2020)741) on 19 November 2020 which proposes concrete ways forward to support the long-term sustainable development of this sector. It sets targets for an installed capacity of at least 60 GW of offshore wind and 1 GW of ocean energy by 2030, and 300 GW and 40 GW, respectively, by 2050.

To maximise its impact, the EU strategy on offshore renewable energy goes beyond a narrow definition of the factors of energy production and addresses broader issues, such as

  • access to sea-space
  • regional and international cooperation
  • industrial and employment dimensions
  • the technological transfer of research projects from the laboratory into practice

While preparing the strategy, the Commission relied on contributions from stakeholders and citizens through a public consultation and a webinar. A number of targeted studies (listed below) were also conducted to serve as input for different dimensions of the strategy.

Implementation of the strategy is ongoing and resulted in 2021 in the offshore conference for ministries and public authorities, which focused on investments, public acceptance and permitting and offshore infrastructure and grid planning, as well as in the launch of a working group on offshore renewables under the Clean Energy Industrial Forum to identify industrial challenges of the sector to reach the 2030 and 2050 goals.

Offshore wind energy

The deployment of offshore wind energy is at the core of delivering the European Green Deal. The installed offshore wind capacity in the EU was 14.6 GW in 2021. 

To harness the full potential of offshore wind in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, and to boost cooperation between countries in these regions, the EU is part of the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) and the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan. In December 2022, the NSEC and the United Kingdom established a cooperation framework to facilitate the development of cost-effective and sustainable offshore renewable energy.

Ocean energy

Ocean energy technologies, like wave and tidal converters, are part of the EU's ‘Blue Economy’. They are emerging rapidly and have the potential to provide steady and predictable power output and contribute to reaching the EU’s climate and energy goals. Thanks to their industrial links with hydropower, shipbuilding, wind turbine manufacturing and offshore oil and gas, ocean energy technologies can rely on a strong, European supply chain.

The EU countries and private sector have invested more than €4 billion over the last ten years in research and pilot projects on ocean energy. Through the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan, the EU has set cost-reduction targets on ocean technologies for the next decade. For tidal stream technologies, the costs should come down to €0.15 per kWh by 2025 and €0.10 per kWh by 2030, and for wave energy to €0.20 per kWh by 2025 and €0.15 per kWh by 2030.

The first areas that could benefit from ocean technologies are offshore installations and islands that today have high electricity costs. More information can be found in the ocean energy barometer 2022 and in the CORDIS results pack that describes 10 EU-funded ocean energy technology projects.

Investing in offshore renewables

Offshore renewable energy covers several energy sources and various technologies, which are at different stages of development. These come with their own set of challenges and opportunities for European energy systems, sea users, industrial actors and civil society.

The continued development of European energy infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, market design and research and innovation is necessary to provide a long-term perspective for offshore renewable energy and facilitate the required investment. This includes integrating offshore renewable energy at sea basin level in the North, Baltic, Mediterranean and Black seas, the Atlantic Ocean and the EU’s outermost regions and overseas territories, and ensuring ambitious objectives in national maritime spatial plans.

The revised Regulation on Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E), which entered into force in June 2022, operationalises the ambitions set in the EU offshore strategy. It includes new infrastructure categories for hybrid offshore grids and radial lines, as well as permitting provisions to accelerate the scale-up of offshore grids. In addition, the TEN-E Regulation supports regional cooperation between EU countries which will, with the support of the Commission, cooperate to define non-binding regional goals for offshore renewable generation to be deployed within each sea basin. These regional goals will feed into the development of strategic integrated offshore network development plans.